Statement on the One Year Anniversary of North Carolina’s SB20

One year ago today, anti-abortion legislators, by the thinnest of margins, overrode Governor Cooper’s veto of SB20, passing the first significant abortion ban in North Carolina since 2015. In addition to arbitrarily banning abortion after 12 weeks, the law also mandated a medically unnecessary and burdensome extra medical visit and additional unnecessary patient paperwork in order for people to access abortion, even within this shortened time frame. In the year since this law was passed, data has shown that access to abortion has been severely impeded and even more restricted in North Carolina. While this is the intended impact by anti-abortion lawmakers, blocking access to common, safe, and critical reproductive health care is not what our elected officials should be doing, nor is it representative of the will of the majority of North Carolinians.

One year out from the passage of this monster abortion ban, it’s imperative North Carolina voters are clear about the politics of how this bill was passed. In 2023, SB20 supporters falsely attempted to paint this bill as:

  • “Not a ban”
  • “Based on popular consensus”
  • Bringing North Carolina abortion law in line with European abortion laws

None of the above are true, as countless doctors and medical professionals, pro-choice lawmakers, progressive advocates, community leaders, faith leaders, patients, and voters testified to during the mere two weeks between when this bill was introduced and the Governor’s veto was overridden. While supporters of SB20 attempted to create the narrative that this bill was representative of North Carolinians, their actions—from introducing the bill late at night after secretive, closed-door GOP caucus meetings, to the refusal to take public comment as the bill was rushed to floor votes—indicate they know full well that abortion bans like SB20 are extremely unpopular with the public. 

As a reminder, if there hadn’t been a duplicitous and unscrupulous party-switch less than six months after the 2022 election by Rep. Tricia Cotham, who ran and won in a district that is staunchly pro-choice, this bill would have been stopped. While anti-abortion legislators clearly believe their deceptive ends justify any and all means, North Carolinians know democracy was not represented in passing SB20. Just like democracy hasn’t been represented in the repeated attempts over the years to pass anti-abortion and anti-choice bills, because our illegally gerrymandered legislature dilutes the voices of the many in sacrifice to the power of the few. 

As we approach the 2024 election, North Carolina voters know what is at stake when it comes to reproductive rights and abortion access. We are tired of seeing our voices ignored, our lives and experiences minimized, and our democratic processes shunted aside. When SB20 was introduced, hundreds of pro-choice North Carolinians turned out to the General Assembly in less than 24 hours to protest. We kept showing up and speaking out, culminating in thousands turning out in Raleigh and across the state to support the Governor’s veto. That the anti-abortion leadership had to resort to undemocratic tricks  for a political “win” in passing SB20 speaks volumes about what they think about their constituents and democracy in North Carolina.

When voters head to the polls this fall, we will absolutely be thinking about what changed in North Carolina since this bill passed and what may come if anti-abortion politicians get more power. We know restrictions on abortion will not end with SB20, and that a complete ban is the ultimate goal of these politicians, including a publicly stated goal of current Lt. Governor Mark Robinson, the GOP candidate for Governor. 

We know anti-abortion politicians will not stop with abortion, and they will continue attacking access to contraception, maternity care, and reproductive assistance technologies, like in vitro fertilization (IVF). We also know they will continue attacking our rights until we elect lawmakers who respect bodily autonomy, science, and the will of voters. And electing lawmakers who will fight for abortion access and reproductive rights is what North Carolina voters are ready to do this November, motivated by the memories and harmful impacts of SB20.

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